Strive for dialogue

Dialogue promotes the authentic exchange of ideas. It moves beyond discussion. It begins in a safe learning space and invites learners to openly share their experiences without concern for judgment. Because education practices often derive from behaviourist and cognitivist paradigms, we tend to see discussion in use more often than dialogue. However, when broadening of perspective and possible social action are the goals of education -- often the case if teaching about social and humanistic aspects of care, like advocacy or collaboration -- we must invite dialogue (1).

Kumagai and Naidu (1) summarize the differences between discussion and dialogue. Discussion tends to focus on cognitive processes, whereas dialogue tends to highlight affective and experiential processes. Discussions tend to focus on articulating one's position to arrive at conclusions or to share information; dialogue instead focuses on understanding one another's thoughts and perspectives, to generate new questions and possibilities. The methods used to engage in discussion in health professions education tend to be instrumental and drawing upon technical and scientific knowledge, whereas in dialogue, one's values, worldviews, and life experiences can be brought to the fore rather than backgrounded.


(1) Kumagai AK, Naidu T. Reflection, dialogue, and the possibilities of space. Academic Medicine. 2015;90(3):283-8.

To cite this work: Ng S, Baker L, Friesen F. Teaching For Transformation. An Online Supplement. [Internet]. 2018. Available from University of Toronto.